Tag Archives: Language Education

Returned Peace Corps volunteer shares his story

Returned Peace Corps volunteer Adam Garnica recently shared highlights of his two years as an English teacher in Mongolia through the Institute’s Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) program.


“Summarizing my Peace Corps experience is difficult. I spent two years maintaining my own blog (http://www.2secondstreet.wordpress.com/) to help disseminate my experience, and even then, I find that the stories told there only scratch the surface. My favorite posts include my one on the history of Mongolian script, the story of me getting my first deel, and the list and description of traditional Mongolian dairy treats.

I spent two years teaching at a collection of schools, working with 25 teachers and over 2,000 students to help improve English teaching and language ability. I met a variety of fascinating characters who ended up being teachers: Munkhtuya, a nurse who joined the democracy rallies in Sukhbaatar Square back when the country switched from their communist model, Nergui, who ran a small business and observed the illegal fur trade, and Bujidmaa, a young woman born after the revolution who sees new hope for her country. The students were diverse and unique, full of optimism, anxiety, warmth, and promise for the future.


There were wonderful projects where I met unique people. I traveled to the taiga on the border with Russia, in the middle of a national park, to do health and English workshops with the Tsaatan, or Reindeer People. I participated in the English Language Teacher’s Association of Mongolia’s (ELTAM) annual seminar with one of my co-teachers, presenting a poster on a simulation we did on civilizations. I climbed a mountain with several men to watch the sun rise during the lunar new year. I cut a young girl’s hair to signal the end of her infancy. Along the way there were miners, students, business owners, herders, restauranteurs, and welcoming strangers.

Mongolia is going through unique growing pains, and for two years, I saw the effects. Inflation hurt everyone I saw as the value of money spiraled downward. Alcoholism wandered the streets in broad daylight, or sat motionless by the school’s gates. Wealth flowed into the city, but only to select pockets. Skinheads, businessmen, young families, and environmental protestors in traditional garb flooded the streets of the capital, hoping to shape their nation’s future.

The country is so much more than the conquests of Chinggis Khaan, and I’m glad I got to learn and experience a bit of their culture as they work through this important time in their nation’s history. It helped give me a new perspective on the developing world, politics, nature, and education, and how no matter where you go, people want safe, secure, and meaningful lives.


I’m also happy to be back at MIIS, where I know the students and faculty understand the value of what I was able to experience. It’s also nice to not be cold all the time, but that’s another story for another time!”

Alumni in India


Jeff Fowler (MA TESOL ’12) and Kimby Murakami (MA TESOL ’12) travelled to India to work for fellow MIIS Alum Tarana Patel’s (MA TESOL ’06) education organization, LearnEd, at Sankalchand Patel Colleges in Visnagar. They each taught two classes in the intensive English program at the college. In addition, the duo collaborated to present English for specific purposes (ESP) courses to engineering faculty.

Fowler taught English to undergraduate students with high-beginner to low-intermediate proficiency majoring in Computer Application, Business Administration, and Natural Sciences. Murakami taught undergraduate and graduate students with intermediate to advanced English proficiency majoring in Dentistry, Pharmacology, Engineering, and Computer Application. Each course incorporated a community outreach component chosen by the students. In team of two to three, students taught a 45-minute lesson to students in grades 1 through 5.

Fowler and Murakami reported that the students were enthusiastic to practice English and to share their culture with the foreign teachers. Both teachers enjoyed participating in Indian festivals (e.g., Kite Festival, Festival of Colors), exploring the ancient buildings in nearby towns, and sampling the culinary delights available in India.

Murakami heads back to India this month with MIIS alum Angie Petinos (MA TESOL ’12) to work in a 6-month teacher training program offered by LearnEd at Divine Child International School.

Spring Speaker Series starts off strong!

Barbara Sawhill gave an engaging two-hour interactive talk last Friday to TESOL/TFL students on the importance of renouncing a “multi-paged, intricately detailed, iron-clad syllabus” and replacing it with a student-centered, participatory class outline with collaborated class goals between the students and teacher. Barbara teaches Spanish at Oberlin College and is the Director of the Cooper International Language Center.

photo from: cogdogblog

Barbara renounces the old Factory Model of Education, which in her opinion lacks a context for students’ learning. This “Fordist” classoom is out of touch with the world around it and sees students as empty vessels who simply absorb and memorize, rather than experience and create.

As an educator, Barbara sees her job as “making this experience [in the classroom] as meaningful for you [the student] as possible”. She insists that as educators, we need to listen and model for students what we expect of them. As learners, we don’t need to simply find all of the answers, but learn how to create “really well-rounded, thoughtful questions”.

Four questions that Barbara asks her students at the beginning of each term are:

How do you learn?

Why are you here?

What do you want to learn?

How can we help you get there?

You can check out her work and ideas at  http://languages.oberlin.edu/lab-info/center-staff/ and http://languagelabunleashed.org/ and typical posts like http://languagelabunleashed.org/2010/03/15/the-backwards-syllabus/ Barbara introduces herself at http://vimeo.com/19050537 .You can read about her Spanish class at http://languages.oberlin.edu/courses/2010/spring/hisp205/ and http://languagelabunleashed.org/tag/hisp205/

Marciel Santos will be the next speaker this Spring, He will be talking on April 14 from 3-5 pm. Stay aware of fliers around campus for more information!

Kumar Trade Fair – Trading Teaching Macrostrategies

In December, the Principles and Practices in Language Education classes came together and showcased some of their knowledge on educational macrostrategies that they had been studying over the semester. The Kumar Trade Fair (named after B. Kumaravadivelu) has become a tradition for the TESOL/TFL students and represents a chance for the students to talk to people outside of the language education department about different teaching approaches.

For the Trade Fair, a small team of students designed and demonstrated a series of tasks that students could do as part of a language lesson. Some of the tasks included tasting salads to learn about different food cultures, thinking about dream jobs, and learning about cultural differences through watching a Saturday Night Live skit.

After the Trade Fair, the students gathered and discussed what they had learned from the Trade Fair, and most students agreed that it was interesting to see how a single macrostrategy could be represented in so many different ways. A member from another department mentioned that she had always considered her own department to be the one that tried to “save the world”, but she was pleased and surprised to see that the language education students were also creating activities which worked toward the same goal.

Corpus linguistics and concordancing

This past weekend GSTILE students, faculty and staff attended a five-hour workshop on corpus linguistics and concordancing, presented by Susan Conrad, an alumna of the MIIS TESOL program, and now a faculty member in the Department of Applied Linguistics at Portland State University.

Susan Conrad, corpora and concordancing workshop

Susan Conrad, corpora and concordancing workshop

Susan’s workshop focused on the use of corpora for language teachers, and covered both software programs and web-based resources.

Materials from Susan’s workshop — as well as those from other GSTILE lecture series events — are available in the GSTILE >> TESOL/TFL section of Moodle:  Materials from TESOL/TFL Speaker Series.

Alum to be published in CATESOL Journal

MIIS TESOL alumna Janine Poreba recently received news that her Applied Linguistics Research (ALR) project will be published in the Winter 2010 issue of the CATESOL Journal.  She writes,



Recently, I dusted off my ALR project (“Negotiation Strategies in Two-Way Conversation Partnerships: Their Use and Usefulness”) and re-read it. I’m working at Santa Monica College, and some colleagues and I are starting a Conversation Exchange Program here, so I wanted to see if I’d uncovered any useful information back in my grad school days. Sure enough, I had, and what’s more, the paper was still interesting to read. I made some changes and submitted it to the CATESOL Journal, and I just found out that it’ll be published in their Winter 2010 issue.

Congratulations, Janine!  And thanks to Kathi Bailey for passing along the news.